Client needs can change rapidly, especially as they move to the cloud and consumption-based buying models. Understanding these changing needs was a key theme of the customer panel discussions at the CRN Pipeline conferences in Sydney and Melbourne. And it seems in the cloud era, bigger is not always better.
While many channel organisations have expanded their offerings to provide a single ‘throat to choke’, some panellists said smaller specialist suppliers are preferred.
“We are moving away from dealing with monolithic organisations to dealing with niche, bespoke-skilled and specifically oriented organisations,” said Dave Glover, chief technology officer at Salmat.
“And that best-of-breed approach to solutions matches up to the best-of-breed partners that help us deploy or manage them.”
This might mean using a channel partner who employs just a handful of staff , with the client acting as the integrator.
“With the way technology works today, and the interoperability of things, you don’t need somebody who understands how all of the pieces work together,” Glover added.
However, the range of technology options and providers raises another headache for buyers in knowing all options – hence, they will call on partners to make suggestions. And that means understanding what the client’s business is all about.
“A lot of the small ones that come in are the ones that actually do their research,” said Paul Smith, vice president for information technology at Accor Asia-Pacific.
“And I find that the big brands are very lazy when it comes to trying to understand me as a customer.”
But as the audiences in both Melbourne and Sydney were keen to know, even when you’ve done all the obvious background work, how do you get that initial foot in the door?
“There is no binary approach to us,” Smith added. “You have to do your research. You have to understand our businesses, how we operate, how we function, and how were working in the past, to tailor it to us.”
A good starting point is to drop the sales routine.
“If you can help us solve a problem and become that trusted advisor or partner, that is something that goes down very well,” said Claudine Ogilvie, CIO at Jetstar Airways. But a foot in the door is only the beginning, with buyers advising that partners should use that entry point to expand their research.
“Once you are in, understand my culture and my customer,” said Simon Raik-Allen, chief technology adviser at MYOB.
“Because next time you come in, I’ll know that you get it, you know how we work and how our customers work.”
That also means not just aiming for the top, but working with key influencers within the client.
“They are probably more accessible,” Ogilvie said. “You will get an idea as to what our pain points are and what our real issues are. And that might get my attention.”
And as all panellists agreed, email is not the answer.
“We’ve all got networks and we’ve all got connections,” said Sam Stewart, head of technology at Culture Amp. “Find the connection point that works, and get introduced. Because I get 30 emails a day that are trying to sell me something, and they just go in the junk folder.”
Pictured above: Claudine Ogilvie (Jetstar), Sam Stewart (Culture Amp), Simon Raik-Allen (MYOB), Tomas Varsavsky (REA Group)